Lourenço Chaves de Almeida
Lourenço Chaves de Almeida (1876-1952) was one of the most famous artists in wrought iron, and some of his excellent work is in Coimbra, “the city of bars” and many other locations. He was born in Lamego and his forefathers were handicraftsmen, but he ended up moving to Coimbra due to military service. He was a professional soldier (Sargent handicraftman) and praised for working in an honourable way and was conscripted to be part of the Portuguese Expeditionary Force (1917-1919). While on the French Campaign he never forgot the art of iron and there he produced – using munitions metal – pieces that due to their artistic sensibility surprised both his colleagues and the military leadership. He was admired by and was in contact with most of the political and intellectual elite of the time, people like António Augusto Gonçalves, Quim Martins, Afonso Lopes Vieira and Veva de Lima, Belisário Pimenta, Bissaya Barreto and Marechal Gomes da Costa. Amongst his numerous works the following may be highlighted: Candlestick/ Patriotic Flame (Monastery of Batalha), Pompeian Lectus (Veva de Lima), Reliquary (Afonso Lopes Vieira) and the Coimbra City Hall chandelier. When his work was shown in expositions (Coimbra, Lisbon and other cities) it was always very successful the proof of which is in the praise given by the Press.
His love for research and writing is also noteworthy. Apart from his published work on João de Ruão and the biography of Saint Heirtorzinho de Loureiro, it was the one on the tombs of Kingo Pedro and D. Inês in Alcobaça that had the greatest impact since not only did he defend an original thesis but it also went against that of established experts. After profound study he concluded that in contrast to what was believed, that notable work of sculpture was not produced by foreign artists but by artists form the Coimbra School. He also loved History and witnesses. He collected and kept newspaper clippings and pictures of his work and after meticulous and rigorous work he wrote Memórias de um Ferreiro [“A Blacksmiths memoires”]. He was not a simple blacksmith or even a normal artist but a man of the elites, with a considerable amount of culture and sharp sensibility in terms of understanding society and the world.